Hoyts teams with MGM, U video arms

Strength of Oz coin helps; 15 titles to be released in 2005

A correction was made to this article on May 31, 2004.

SYDNEY — Hoyts Film Distribution is ramping up its slate, bolstered by joint ventures with the local home entertainment arms of Universal and MGM.

The deals are enabling Hoyts to acquire more product because costs including advances are shared, as are the profits from the exploitation of all rights.

The banner expects to release 15 titles in 2005, up from 11 this year, according to managing director Robert Slaviero.

In league with Universal Pictures Intl., Hoyts bought “The Long Weekend,” a comedy starring Chris Klein, and “Danny the Dog,” an actioner toplining Jet Li.

Hoyts joined with MGM Home Entertainment to nab “Lord of War,” a drama featuring Nicolas Cage and Ethan Hawke, and the Colin Farrell starrer “Intermission,” which bows Down Under June 4.

Slaviero is negotiating a joint venture on another title with Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, Hoyts’ regular homevid distrib.

Further solidifying its relationship with Universal, Hoyts will release theatrically Oz pic “Hating Alison Ashley,” the feature debut of singer and former “Neighbours” star Delta Goodrem. U acquired all rights to the film, which wrapped recently in Melbourne.

Slaviero returned from the Cannes fest with five pics in his saddlebags including “The Big White,” featuring Robin Williams and Holly Hunter, “Cake,” a romantic comedy starring Heather Graham, and the Steve Coogan vehicle “Alibi.” He also collared thriller/horror pics “Saw” and “The Dark.”

Exec notes the strengthening of the Oz dollar versus the greenback has made U.S. films more affordable. The local dollar has been trading at U.S. 70 cents, vs. 52 cents when Hoyts Distribution launched two years ago. “That makes a big difference to the bottom line,” he says.